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An Introduction to Electric Commercial Vehicles and Electric HGVs

We look at the electric commercial vehicle market in the UK, what commercial EVs are available, and legislation around them.

ev trucks

As of the end of February, there were 1 million battery-electric cars on UK roads. EVs are on the rise, and trends show this is set to continue in the coming years.  

Less reported, however, is the story of the electric commercial vehicle. In this blog, we look at: 

  • What commercial vehicles are, and the different types 
  • The state of the electric commercial vehicle market 
  • The laws around electric commercial vehicles 

What are commercial vehicles?

A commercial vehicle, often seen abbreviated to ‘CV’, is a vehicle that is used for commercial or business. Its purpose involves assisting moving goods, such as commodities, food, equipment and raw materials, or people, such as a taxi service.  

There are two main classes of CV: Light Commercial Vehicles (LCVs) and Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs). Light commercial vehicles have a weight of less than 3,500kg, whereas heavy goods vehicles weigh over 3,500kg. 

These vehicles play a crucial role in maintaining our supply chains: in 2022, the HGV sector carried some 1.65 billion tonnes of goods across the UK. 

Electrifying commercial vehicles

The UK has over 615,000 Trucks and 4.8 million vans on the road. Despite representing a mere 1% of all vehicles on Britain’s roads, HGVs are accountable for 20% of the UK’s transport emissions, roughly equivalent to all UK air travel, buses and shipping together. 

Promisingly, the commercial and heavy goods sector is making strides towards electrification. The electric HGV market in the EU nearly tripled in 2021. 

  • May 2022: £200 million of government funding was allocated to an extensive zero-emission road freight demonstration programme, which aimed to deduce which zero-emission technologies are best suited to the heaviest road vehicles. 
  • September 2022: IKEA, Unilever, JSW Steel Limited, A.P. Moller – Maersk and GeoPost/DPDgroup committed to transitioning their medium- and heavy-duty vehicles to zero emission by 2040 in OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) markets, China and India.   
  • March 2023: A cross-industry action group met to discuss the next steps on the decarbonisation of HGVs across the UK and Europe. 
  • April 2023: SMMT called for government to deliver a strategy within 12 months that looks at the ‘specific requirements of HGVs to enable operators to plan and invest, while minimising additional logistics costs that inevitably would be passed on to the consumer.’ 
  • November 2023: A report by Green Finance Institute provided observations and solutions to accelerate the uptake of zero emission trucks. 

 

State of the market

In 2022, almost 66,000 electric buses and 60,000 medium- and heavy-duty trucks were sold across the world; these sales represented about 4.5% of all bus sales and 1.2% of truck sales globally.  

Over half of London’s black cabs are now zero emission capable (ZEC), reports at the end of 2023 showed, with 7,972 of the 14,690 licensed taxis in the city fitting the criteria. 

By 2035, it is predicted that ‘the majority of new trucks sold in China, the European Union, and the United States will be electric’. 

SMMT data shows that in the UK, the BEV share of the LCV market is expected to rise to 10.1% in 2024, and 14.1% next year. 

Whilst many environmentally conscious organisations are beginning the transition to BEV commercial vehicles, manufacturers too are bringing new electric models to market, from the Volta Zero purpose-built 16-tonne electric truck to the Volvo FH Electric. The latter has a range of 300 km, suitable for a typical work day, which can be extended to 500 km per day if topped up during a break. 

 

electric truck charging infrastructure

What are the laws in the UK around electrifying commercial vehicles?

In 2021, the UK committed to phasing out new, non-zero emission heavy goods vehicles weighing 26 tonnes and under by 2035. By 2040, all new HGVs sold in the UK must be zero emission. 

At the Motor Transport Decarbonisation Summit in November 2023, Bob Moran, Department for Transport’s deputy director for decarbonisation strategy, said ‘the DfT was looking closely at whether a ZEV mandate was appropriate for HGVs, similar to that put in place for cars and vans’. The ZEV mandate referred to requires that 10% of all new vans sold in 2024 must be zero-emission; the figure rises to 24% in 2026, 70% in 2030, and 100% in 2035. 

How and where will electric commercial vehicles charge?

Just as electric passenger vehicles require reliable and abundant charging infrastructure, the expansion of a dedicated charging network for electric commercial vehicles is critical for the transition from ICE to electric.  

We will explore in greater depth the reality around charging infrastructure for commercial and heavy goods vehicles in due course. In the meantime, download our free bespoke eguide, which details a step-by-step process for installing the right charging infrastructure for your fleet. 

 

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